Here in Missouri, speed was a contributing factor in 286 fatal accidents and 6,546 injury crashes in 2012 alone. These accidents resulted in 320 deaths and over 9,700 people injured. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for roadway conditions is a leading cause of serious car accidents throughout the state. As Cape Girardeau car accident lawyers, we know first-hand that speeding can prove to be a dangerous, often deadly mistake.
In 1995, the National Highway System Designation Act repealed the national maximum speed limit, which cleared the way for individual states to determine their own speed limits. In the 17 years that followed, 35 states - including Missouri - increased their maximum speed limit to 70 miles per hour. Studies have shown that increased speed limits don't necessarily cause a higher number of car accidents - but they definitely produce more serious crashes.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), speed can affect car accidents - and their resulting injuries - in three basic ways:
1. Speeding vehicles travel a greater distance in the time between the moment a driver recognizes an emergency and the moment the driver reacts to that emergency.
2. Speeding vehicles require more time and space to stop following the moment a driver hits the brakes.
3. Speeding vehicles create more crash energy. When a collision occurs, the crash energy created must be managed by the vehicles involved, their restraint systems, and roadway fixtures like crash barriers. The greater the speed, the greater the crash energy produced: for example, if impact speed increases from 40 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour, the crash energy also increases - by a staggering 125%. Thus, when crashes occur at high speeds, the crash energy can be too severe "that the vehicle structure cannot withstand the force of the crash and maintain survival space in the occupant compartment."
When a collision involves a car and a pedestrian instead of two vehicles, the effect of impact speed is even more directly tied to the level of injury. A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined that the average risk of severe injury in a pedestrian collision increases dramatically with impact speed:
• If impact speed is 16 mph, the pedestrian injury risk is 10%.
• If impact speed is 31 mph, the pedestrian injury risk is 50%.
• If impact speed is 39 mph, the pedestrian injury risk is 75%.
• If impact speed is 46 mph, the pedestrian injury risk is 90%.